Over the past couple of years, both the Windows client and Windows server teams have been structuring their releases to alternate between major and minor ones.
(On the server side, the Softies have been rolling out a major release followed by a minor update (known as Release 2, or R2) every two years. On the client side, the timing has been off, but the major/minor cadence has been pretty similar.)
Starting with Windows 7, however, that logic and naming structure that Microsoft has worked to establish for Windows seems to breaking down.
Yes, I'm going to reopen the can of worms about Windows Server 2008 being one and the same as Windows 7 Server. The reason I'm not letting go of this is because a bunch of things still just don't add up (and not just to me -- to a number of other folks in the Windows community with whom I have spoken).
In the August 18 posting to the Windows Server blog about Windows Server 2008 R2/Windows 7 Server, Group Product Manager Ward Ralston noted that even though Windows 7 Server (a k a Windows Server 2008 R2) is an interim, more minor release, "the (Windows 7) client in fact will be a major release."
Hmmm. No one seems to be buying that. Customers, partners and Microsoft pundits -- basically, almost everyone other than Microsoft execs -- is already considering Windows 7 client to be a minor release. Microsoft officials have been careful to explain that there won't be any major changes to Windows 7 client and that most apps that work on Vista should work on Windows 7 without a problem. And given that it's a lot harder to get customers excited about a minor release than a major one, the Windows team's reticence to call any Windows release a "minor" update is understandable.
At the risk of being accused of being a tin-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, let me posit a couple of thoughts as to what might have happened:
Possibility A: The Server team did, indeed, decide to release one fewer versions of Server (killing off what originally was going to be Windows Server 2008 R2 and going straight to Windows 7 Server). I don't know exactly when this decision might have been made. But as you can see from this 2007 roadmap slide on the UX Evanglist blog, Microsoft's plan, as recently as November 2007, was to ship Windows Server 2008 in late 2007 or early 2008. If that schedule continued, Windows Server 2008 R2 would hit in late 2009/early 2010, and Windows Server 7 in late 2011/early 2012. But Stephen "UX Evangelist" Chapman also has a roadmap slide, dated January 2008, which seems to equate Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 (though that slide also may be interpreted as Windows 7 client and Windows Server 2008 R2 being built atop the same code base).
Possibility B: The Server team decided the R2 naming had become beyond confusing and decided to go with big, round numbers (Windows 7 Server, Windows 8 Server, Windows 9 Server) instead. That would mean the product which should have been named "Windows 7 Server" (if Microsoft stuck to existing naming conventions) is now actually Windows 8 Server (maybe?). Or is it Windows 7 Server R2? Hmmm. I think it is interesting Microsoft is declining to provide even a placeholder name for the major release of Windows Server due to follow Windows Server 2008 R2.
Before I get another email from anonymous at anonymous.com accusing me of intentionally misleading readers (and why would i do that -- not quite sure on that one), let me just say I find the usually transparent Windows Server team's opacity on this to be unusual.
Update (September 29): Stephen Chapman, over at the UX Evangelist site, documents how Microsoft did, indeed, change its plans for Windows Server. As Chapman notes, Microsoft's original plan was to release a minor Longhorn Server R2, followed by a major "Blackcomb" Server (Windows 7 Server). Based on Chapman's research and logic, it sounds like the Windows Server marketing team has some work ahead to realign its branding with its "major/mior" release cadence.
What do you think Microsoft should codename/call the release of Windows Server that follows Windows Server 2008 R2?
Other write-in candidates?
Update: As a few readers have pointed out, looks like the head of Windows Engineering, Steven Sinofsky, and I were on the same wavelength today. Scary! After reading the latest Sinofsky post, I'm still not sure if the Windows team and its leader consider Windows 7 to be a major or a minor release -- but I think the internal view is that Windows 7 will be a major one. Sinofsky blogged:
"The magnitude of a release is as much about your perspective on the features as it is about the features themselves. One could even ask if being declared a major release is a compliment or not. As engineers planning a product we decide up front the percentage of our development team will that work on the release and the extent of our schedule—with the result in hand customers each decide for themselves if the release is “major”, though of course we like to have an opinion....
From our perspective, we dedicated our full engineering team and a significant schedule to building the Windows 7 client OS. That makes it a major undertaking by any definition. We intend for Windows 7 to be an awesome release."